NEWPORT, RI -- Today, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen Gabe Amo announced that Rhode Island has been allocated over $16 million in federal funds to help strengthen one of Rhode Island’s top tourist attractions: the iconic Newport Cliff Walk.  Drawing over 1 million visitors annually, the free trail hugs the craggy coastline, overlooking the ocean on one side and allowing the public to walk through the historic back yards of Gilded Age Mansions, enjoying breathtaking views all around. 

Located on the eastern shore of Newport, the Cliff Walk traverses over three miles through meadows and other landscapes along the coastline, offering sweeping, million-dollar views at every turn.  The northern section of the trail is nice and flat for easy strolling, while the southern portion offers a rockier, more rugged hike.

The Cliff Walk was designated a National Recreation Trail in 1975 and named one of the “50 Places of a Lifetime in America” by National Geographic Traveler magazine.  It is open daily to the public without charge from sunrise to sunset.

Over the years, sections of the Cliff Walk have been damaged.  In March of 2022, a key section of the paved trail -- between Narragansett Avenue and Webster Avenue – collapsed due to coastal erosion exacerbated by severe inclement weather incidents.  More recently, a southern section was closed due to a sink hole.  The Cliff Walk has remained open throughout with detours around the damaged sections.

Reed, Whitehouse and Amo secured the $16 million federal funds to fix and fortify the Cliff Walk through two separate funding streams: a $5 million federal earmark they jointly secured in the Fiscal Year 2024 Consolidated Appropriations law, which President Biden signed last month (P.L. 118-42), and a new $11,000,800 Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient and Cost-Saving Transportation (PROTECT) grant.

“This historic public path is a national treasure and an environmental and economic asset for the city of Newport and the entire state.  I’m pleased to help deliver this federal funding to rescue and restore the Cliff Walk.  This federal funding will help make the walking trail safer and preserve its natural and historic significance for future generations,” said Senator Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee.

“The Cliff Walk is a unique landmark that draws people from across the state and the country to Aquidneck Island,” said Senator Whitehouse, who helped create the PROTECT Grant program as a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.  “Our delegation has delivered two major infusions of funds to counteract the coastal erosion that has worn away parts of this Rhode Island gem.”

“Newport's Cliff Walk is an icon of our state,” said Congressman Gabe Amo. “Our Cliff Walk has been battered by wind and rains before, including the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and recent closure within the last week. When sections of the trail collapsed two years ago, it became abundantly clear that critical investments were needed. I'm thrilled that federal dollars are on the way and I’m looking forward to when our Cliff Walk reopens for every resident and visitor to our district to enjoy for decades to come.”

The $5 million federal earmark will help pay for engineering and design work.  While the $11 million federal PROTECT funds may be used to shore up infrastructure vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

The federal PROTECT funds are made available thanks to the historic Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (P.L. 117-58), which Senators Reed and Whitehouse helped pass in 2021 to strengthen the nation’s infrastructure and make it more resilient while continuing to power America’s strong, steady economic recovery.  This law included the single largest dedicated investment in surface transportation infrastructure since the construction of the Interstate Highway System, creating good-paying jobs while improving the safety and efficiency of America’s roadways.

Former President Donald Trump strongly urged Republicans to vote against the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and it was opposed by the majority of Congressional Republicans, including 200 House Republicans voting no along with 30 Republican Senators.

In June of 2023, Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee issued an emergency disaster declaration for the Cliff Walk and set aside $8 million of a $50 million green bond for Cliff Walk repairs.

A 2018 study by students at Salve Regina University, whose campus is located along a stretch of the Cliff Walk, estimated that the Cliff Walk attracts 1.3 million visitors per year and adds $200 million in economic impact for Rhode Island.